11 of the Coolest Play Tents on Earth

published Jun 18, 2021
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play tent for kids
Credit: Amazon

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When I close my eyes and conjure the best elements of my childhood summers, there’s one beloved activity that bubbles up again and again. No, it’s not the Slip n’ Slide. Or the waterpark (although those are totes fun). It’s fort-building. What’s cooler than creating your own mini world? I’ll tell you: having one set up for you in the form of a too-cool-for-school play tent. Just add your fave books, toys and besties. 

“Play tents are one of our favorite ways to give kids a quiet and fun nook,” says Lina Galvao, Brooklyn-based designer and co-owner of Curated Nest, who has two little ones, ages 1 and 6. “Kids love small, cozy spaces to read, curl up, and use their imagination. Plus, there’s a big benefit for parents: tents easily fold up and are easily transportable to the backyard for outdoor fun!” (With the added bonus of extra sun protection).

Kids love small, cozy spaces to read, curl up, and use their imagination.

Stephanie Lindsey, a mom of three (ages 2, 4 and 9 months) and designer at Etch Design Group in Austin, Texas, is just as obsessed with tents as her kiddos are. “Kids’ play tents are must-haves for little ones,” she says. “Each of our kids has one, and they see a lot of love. We store stuffed animals in them, read books for storytime in them, and we even have picnics in them. It creates a special place to be creative and enjoy time together!”

Now that I’m a mom myself, I absolutely cannot wait for the day my 16-month-old son and I pitch our own tent in our Colorado garden for “camping” (complete with bottomless s’mores around our fire pit, obviously). Or a fanciful tent in his bedroom for reading, or even one with a climbing wall because … why not? Here, 11 kids play tents that put adult versions to shame. 

For city dwellers, one of the most magical moments you’ll have as a parent is introducing your wee one to the stars twinkling in an inky night sky. This outdoor and indoor-rated tent brings the lure of the cosmos to your own pad, and is nothing less than adored by Amazon reviewers, who’ve given it 5 stars with nearly 3,000 reviews. (Said one: “It’s a beautiful tent and the kids are really excited. It fits 2 to 4 kids with ease, and there is room for my two kids to lay down and curl up for a movie on an iPad … but no need yet: they keep playing space games because of the colorful inspiration!” )

Paging all bebe Francophiles. If you prefer picnics with buttery, flaky croissants, and apple cider bubbly to rugged camping trips in the woods, this Swedish-designed, Greece-made number is parfait. Bonus: the canvas cotton, tasseled and genuine leather delight has a secret interior pocket for hiding your miniature copy of “Madeleine.” 

Recommended Minimum Age: 5 years

Whether you want to claim a seafront camping spot at Acadia National Park or simply pitch a bbq cookout and movie night in your backyard, this set wins. Kids find it feels as “real” as your pricey grown-up tent, thanks to mesh pockets for stashing their sunnies, a removable rainfly, and included nap pads and chairs. Bliss.

Recommended Minimum Age: 3 years

If a young Van Gogh were to dream up his ideal play tent for, say, a painting extravaganza, it would be this exact one. The home-like silhouette has minimalist lines; sheer walls give an airy effect; and the moon and swirling stars are (yup!) glow-in-the-dark. Said one reviewer: “Survived a move and one year of use and it’s still going strong. I’ve even washed it!” No surprise that it has five stars, indeed.

Fairytales may not be real, but fairytale tents? You betcha. Take this soft cotton canvas castle, which littles adore for its multiple windows and “doors” that close for privacy. For parents, though, the true magic is in what it *doesn’t* have: namely, no flame retardants, added formaldehyde, or known phthalates. Talk about happily ever after.

Sometimes your little one wants total, hush-hush, Presidential-level privacy. Sometimes they want to watch every move you make. With its roll-up 100% cotton canvas walls on an eight-sided wooden and PE plastic frame, this pavilion delivers both. Just call it Choose Your Own Adventure.

Recommended Minimum Age: 5 Years Old

Medieval purists will j’adore this starry play tent, which has all the unbridled whimsy of a court jester’s pointy hat and is sold by cult-favorite British brand, Selfridges. At about 39 inches wide, it’s the perfect size for a tea party for two. Moat and drawbridge not included. 

Recommended Minimum Age: 3 Years Old

It may be hewn of simple pine wood and canvas, but this tent is anything but standard-issue (just note its patterned exterior emblazoned with constellations, rocket ships, and galaxies far, far away.) Leave it to Anthropologie to make us starry eyed.

Fans of Hardy Boys novels and Nancy Drew mysteries alike will appreciate the throwback vibes of this hand-made, 1960s-style khaki tent. Parents love the ultra-durable wood frame, which is so chic it could double as a de facto sculpture once your child has grown and moved on to adventures of his own. 

Hard-core outdoorsy folks can have a difficult time finding a tent that’s ready to stand up to the elements and their own expectations. The team at Veer has worked tirelessly to whip up a kids tent that is hard-wearing enough to make it in the backcountry, including a UPF50 removable rain and sun cover; fiberglass poles; water resistant poly and six mesh sides (so you can keep your eye on them); and sandbags and stakes to hold it steady. Did we mention it’s just seven pounds?

Recommended Minimum Age: 3 Years Old

For pint-sized go-getters who never stop exploring, this number is tops, thanks to a climbing wall studded with six rocks on one side of the wood A-frame. Fun extras: a peep window, star-dusted canvas doors, and even a bell they can ring if they want, say, a mocktail to accompany their al fresco exploits.